Mule kicking out at horses and people - playful or malicious?
I have a young (4 month) mule and he often gets very stroppy with his mother and our three-y-o filly. He bites and kicks out at them, but they are both incredibly patient with him. What worries me more is his behaviour when we take the two out on the trails, with the mule running along loose with them. He comes cantering past and shoots a carefully-aimed kick at his mother or the filly. Yesterday he got me on my shin-bone (I was riding the fillyat the time). And sometimes he tries it out when I'm on the ground in their paddock. This behaviour is most uncongenial, and I've no idea why he does it.
Otherwise he is generally friendly, always comes to greet me when I enter their paddock, likes being groomed etc. Why does he kick out at his friends and humans? He knows exactly what he's doing, he always looks over his shoulder just before he kicks to check his aim.If I have something suitable in my hand I give him a sharp tap on the butt, though it usually happens far too fast to be able to correct this behaviour.
You need to stop him doing it NOW. Carry a crop or similar and correct immediately--within seconds if at all possible. If you wait, he won't know why you whacked him. Mules do take aim--and right now it may seem that he's mostly playful, but trust me, if he decides to hurt you, he will, and you need to establish boundaries.
Ladycelia, you're right! Except his behaviour doesn't seem playful by now. Normally I carry a crop (except of course the other day when he got me) and use it if he kicks, even though that normally means a cross-country pursuit! But after a few circles at canter to get him in range, I'm not sure if he really knows what the whack is all about.
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Two words: Buggy Whip
It will give you more range.
I would never have anything running loose with me on a trail…but that is just me. I also would carry something more like a lunge whip, not a crop. I would never get close enough to his hind end to use a crop, and yes, he needs to IMMEDIATELY and briefly think he is going to DIE. Yell, scream, run at him cracking that whip. You could even set him up so that you can "catch him in the act" also.
Disrespectful is the word. I agree with carrying a lunge whip out with you. My mare used to kick out at people in the field and she aimed a kick I'd run at her screaming bloody murder with the whip. Tossing snow balls at her worked, too ;) I wouldn't leave him loose on the trails either. If he has to come, then I think the safest route would be to pony him, but if you can, leave him behind.
Is the mule halter broke yet? If not, that's where I would start. Then you could pony him on rides.
It's one thing for him to be playful or disrespectful with the other horses. They will put him in line at some point. When you are involved, he needs to learn that it's not acceptable. You can set those boundaries and he will figure that out as other horses do. Again, if he isn't halter broke, do it. Whenever you are near him, put his halter on and show him how he's suppose to act.
We have an Appy. When I first started him, he didn't understand that it was not playtime when being rode. He would try to nip at my wife's horse, who was/is his pasture playmate and buddy. It just takes time, effort and correction. Just like everything else.
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Even if its "playful" now you NEVER want him to think making contact, kicking, biting, crowding, pushing, etc is okay. There is a VERY fine line in the sand between playing and dominating.
Get a 5 foot buggy whip or stock whip. A longe whip is unworkable horseback but a 5 foot stock whip handles very well.
He has made a game of this, but it is not a very good one. I, also, would not any loose stock running along. It is a very good place for him to develop really bad habits.
I think in Spain or some places, it is more common to allow the young stock to run freely alongside the mother or other mounted horses when out riding. the mule colt is pretty young still. can you pony a 4 month old ?
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